MIAMI – The only thing keeping LeBron James up worrying at night is basketball, which simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense.
On one hand, he’s the game’s best player.
On the other, he’s rarely impressed with himself.
Even after a year like 2013 — when a spectacular wedding, a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award were among the many highlights enjoyed by the Miami Heat star — he still is, as he puts it, striving for greatness. Or, technically, more greatness, since his enormous list of accomplishments just keeps growing.
James was announced Thursday as The Associated Press 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the honor that has been annually awarded since 1931. James received 31 of 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations, beating Peyton Manning (20) and Jimmie Johnson (7).
“I’m chasing something and it’s bigger than me as a basketball player,” James told AP. “I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero . . . those things mean so much, and that’s what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don’t think this is the biggest role that I’m going to have.”
Past winners include Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Serena Williams was the AP Female Athlete of the Year, announced Wednesday.
James joins Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as NBA players to win the award.
“I don’t think I’ve changed much this year,” James said. “I’ve just improved and continued to improve on being more than just as a basketball player. I’ve matured as a leader, as a father, as a husband, as a friend.”
So far in 2013, with a maximum of three games left to play, James has appeared in 98. The Heat have won 78 of them.
None of those was bigger than the four Miami got in the NBA Finals against San Antonio. In Game 7, James was at his best, scoring 37 points, including the jump shot with 27.9 seconds left that essentially was the clincher.
“He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Hawks win at buzzer
Jeff Teague scored a career-high 34 points, including a tiebreaking 6-meter jumper at the buzzer in the second overtime, leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 127-125 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.
Teague’s fallaway jumper over Tristan Thompson bounced off the rim five times before falling through the net. Teague, who also had 14 assists, fell to the floor after shooting the ball and was mobbed by his teammates.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 40 points, including 12 in the second OT. Thompson had 22, and Dion Waiters scored 20 points in 41 minutes after missing three games because of tendinitis in his right wrist.
Rockets 100, Grizzlies 92
In Houston, James Harden scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Rockets rally for the victory.
Harden struggled from the field, going 2-for-9, but was 22 of 25 from the free-throw line. He made 9 of 11 foul shots in the final quarter.
Jeremy Lin had 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as Houston won for the third time in four games.
Zach Randolph led Memphis with 23 points and 17 rebounds.
Spurs 116, Mavericks 109
In Dallas, Tim Duncan had 21 points and 13 rebounds in his 10th double-double of the season, helping San Antonio take advantage of the Mavs’ weakened front court.
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23 points, and reserve Danny Green had 22 on perfect shooting. Green was 7-for-7 from the field and made each of his three foul shots.
Blazers 116, Clippers 112 (OT)
In Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 10 rebounds and the Trail Blazers held on for an overtime victory over Los Angeles.
The Clippers, playing the second of a back-to-back, mounted a challenge after trailing by as many as 11 points early in the second half.
Blake Griffin had 35 points and 11 rebounds, while Chris Paul finished with 34 points and 16 assists.
Portland clung to a 114-112 lead with 13.4 seconds left and padded on free throws by Wesley Matthews.
Paul missed a 3-point attempt as time ran out.